Sunday, November 10, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: FZZT


In Wrigley, Pennsylvania a group of off-brand Boy Scouts sit around a campfire telling ghost stories.  The scout leader claims to hear a buzzing sound and goes off to investigate.  The scouts assume he is just trying to scare them, until lighting starts arcing around and they hear him screaming in the woods.  When the scouts find the nerve to investigate, they find his body sparking and floating in the air.

Cool Graviton is back already!  Or maybe they just liked the effect.

On the Bus, Coulson is having his annual physical administered by Simmons.  Only, he is not due for his annual physical for several months.  When Simmons asks him about it, he blows it off saying his physical therapist asked him to get it.  This is obviously a lie.

Meanwhile Agent Ward tries out the most recent iteration of the ‘Nite-Nite’ gun, but complains to Fitz that it is an ounce too heavy.  When Ward leaves the room, an annoyed Fitz does a ‘macho man’ Agent Ward impression which amuses Skye.  Skye’s brief interest causes Fitz to awkwardly attempt to hit on her, which Skye doesn’t even seem to notice.

This mercifully comes to an end when Simmons enters the room.  When she hears Ward complained of the ‘Nite-Nite’ gun being an ounce off, she does her own ‘macho’ Agent Ward impression.  She is almost caught by Ward when he returns to let the group know they have a mission.  To cover herself, Simmons tells Ward that Fitz had left a dummy round in the ‘Nite-Nite’ gun and it should be the proper weight now. Ward tries it and agrees the weight problem is fixed.  When he leaves the group bursts into laughter.

In Wrigley, Pennsylvania the group investigates the (sort of) boy scout camp.  As the group tries to determine who or what could have done this, Simmons gets too close to the body and it falls to the ground after a brief electrical discharge.

With no more leads at the scout camp, it is up to Skye to research the victim.  Unfortunately, she finds nothing unusual about him.  In fact he is squeaky clean, dividing his time between his job as a physical education teacher, working as a volunteer fireman, and of course his scoutmaster duties.

They catch a break when Fitz detects an electrostatic event occurring no more than twenty miles from their current location.  May, Coulson, and Ward rush to the scene, but all they find is another corpse floating in a farmhouse.  Skye determines that this victim was a member of the same firehouse as the scoutmaster, giving the team their first solid lead.

It looks like a good one though as we cut to a member of the firehouse polishing a Chitauri helmet.

The firefighters were part of the first responders team during the Chitauri invasion of New York.  May, Coulson, and Ward head to the firehouse hoping to get some answers.  Coulson becomes suspicious of one of the firefighters, a man named Tony Diaz. 

However, the agents soon realize that it is not a weapon they are dealing with.  The firemen had picked up a discarded alien helmet as a souvenir during the Chitauri Invasion.  Unfortunately, the helmet contained an alien virus that had laid dormant until the three men polished it a few nights ago.  Tony isn’t a killer: he is the next victim.

When Simmons picks up readings of another electro-static event, Coulson realizes Tony doesn’t have much time.  He has the building evacuated but stays a bit longer himself.  He confides with Tony that he died briefly during the battle of New York.  He tells Tony there is something on the other side: something beautiful.  This seems to comfort Tony, who tells Coulson to ‘get going’ right before the end.

The firefighters are quarantined and the helmet is packed up to be delivered to the ‘Sandbox’, a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in Africa for hazardous materials.  Coulson tells Simmons that the remaining firefighters may still need a cure, and tells her he needs her to keep looking for it.

So everything is wrapped up really nicely—and much sooner than usual.

But wait, there is more!  Back in the Bus, Simmons determines that this virus spreads not by the air or by fluid transfer, but via electrostatic shock.  She is ecstatic at this new scientific discovery, but when a metal instrument begins floating behind her Coulson realizes she was infected by the scoutmaster in the beginning.  With a profoundly sad look on his face, Coulson quarantines her the lab.

Based on when she was infected, Simmons only has an hour or two before she succumbs to the symptoms like the firemen did.  This is bad news as the bus is currently in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and at least three hours from someplace they can safely land.  If Simmons dies, the whole plane goes with her.  Coulson realizes the only person with a real chance of finding the cure in time is Simmons herself—and he is willing to bet his life that she will.

Of course S.H.I.E.L.D. is not willing to take this bet.  Communicating with headquarters, Agent Blake reminds Coulson that his priority is getting the helmet to the Sandbox.  S.H.I.E.L.D. has never seen anything like this virus and they have a potential pandemic on their hands.  Agent Blake coldly tells Coulson that if they have ‘infected cargo’ his orders are to jettison it.  Coulson claims that communications are breaking up and turns off the connection.

Fitz-Simmons work together on the cure, albeit separated by glass.  The stress of the situation begins to take its toll though and the two begin to argue with Fitz again complaining (again) about taking a field assignment while Simmons claims he didn’t have to follow her if he really didn’t want to go.  By the end of the argument they realize how much time they have spent together over the years and Fitz quietly demands that Simmons ‘fix this’.

Simmons has her eureka moment when she realizes the Chitauri who had the virus wasn’t killed by it.  This means the Chitauri had antibodies for the virus.  Fitz grabs the case containing the helmet and breaks quarantine by marching straight into the lab with it.

Scraping some cells off the helmet the two develop an antiserum.  Unfortunately, the lab rat they test it on soon emits an electrostatic pulse, just like the previous attempts, albeit smaller and with a slight delay.  Fitz is determined to try again, but Simmons realizes they are out of time.  Simmons asks Coulson to tell her father about her death first, then asks for some time alone with Fitz.  She uses this time to knock Fitz unconscious with a blow to the head.

When Fitz regains consciousness, he realizes the rat survived—it was merely knocked unconscious by the shock.  Unfortunately Simmons has already decided to sacrifice herself for the greater good.  Fitz can do nothing but scream her name as she opens the bay cargo doors and jumps.

Desperately, Fitz grabs the antiserum and a parachute.  Before Fitz can jump though, Ward shows up to take his place and save the day with a daring midair rescue in his typical James Bondian fashion.

After a dressing down by Coulson, Simmons confesses to Ward that she lied about the weight of the ‘nite-nite’ gun.  He already knew, and even heard her imitation of him.  Skye, just grateful Simmons is alive, gives her a big hug. 

Coulson and May talk about Simmons nearly dying, and the topic drifts to Coulson’s death.  He admits he ordered the physical himself—the tests may say he is normal but he no longer feels like himself.  May tells Coulson that he IS different after his near death experience.  May asks Coulson to see his scar and tells him that scars exist as reminders that there is no going back, only going forward.

Later, Simmons and Fitz have a heart to heart where she assures him that while he might not have been the one to jump out of the plane, he did save her life.

At the Sandbox, Agent Blake takes possession of the helmet and warns Agent Coulson that HQ won’t let him get away with disobeying direct orders forever.  If Coulson keeps pulling stunts like that, no matter what happen to him in New York, eventually they are going to take his little dream team away from him.  Coulson tells him that he would like to see them try.

Stray Thoughts

Since the final half-hour was so squarely focused on Agent Jemma Simmons, I found the fact that the episode was named FZZT a bit odd.  Do even the writers have trouble telling Fitz-Simmons apart?

This episode felt a bit like two separate episodes smushed together.  The first half was a pretty standard Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘investigate the anomaly’ episode, while the second half was more of a character driven drama.  Since I enjoyed the second half more, I wish they had gotten past the setup and to the character drama a bit quicker.

Maybe it is just Joss Whedon’s reputation, but I actually wondered if Jemma Simmons was going to survive the episode.  It made for great drama, especially when the final attempt at an antiserum seemed to have failed.

There was also some good character work with Agent Coulson this week, which is impressive considering that he wasn’t the focus of the episode.  I also like how they are developing his relationship with Agent May.

Is it just me or did the dramatic skydiving rescue scene look a bit cheesy?

In Conclusion

A strong character episode.  It was nice to focus on a character other than Skye for awhile as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars